Record Review: S.W.A.L.K. – The Way We Were…

Disposable Discs ‎| UK | EP | 1985 | DISPLP 4

S.W.A.L.K.: The Way We Were… UK EP [1985]

  1. No Shame
  2. What The Lady Wants
  3. Turn It Down
  4. Stomp Stomp
  5. International Playboy
  6. No Shame [dub]

I could not believe my luck in March when I found a US dealer selling a copy of this scarce UK EP made by Jo Callis after he left The Human League. Obtaining it allowed me to careen forward with my “Unnamed Jo Callis Project” alluded to earlier. I just finished making a comprehensive Rezillos CD last month, and following it up with the Callis volume seemed the natural thing to do, so last week, I actually found myself listening to a record that I had bought scant months ago. Amazing, if you’re me. I’d heard that this was a tribute to Callis’ glam roots… was it really so?

“No Shame” ripping out of the headphones certainly confirmed that! There were all sorts of glam rock touchstones in this mix. First and foremost, the song was redolent of the Chinnichap aesthetic as best personified by The Sweet. Big beat bravado on skins [and machines throughout] by the rebranded Angle Patterson and some vibrant fret-mangling courtesy of Mr. Callis. But there were other touchstones beyond The Sweet just under the surface here. The elephant in the Glam Rock Room; David Bowie, was also lurking in the shadows. The “why baby why/tears in your eye” chorus was more than a little familiar from a lifetime of exposure to the chorus of “Cracked Actor” and Callis’ outro solo pulled a perfect Mick Ronson Memorial Feedback Fadeout® – straight from “John, I’m Only Dancing.”

“What The Ladies Want” was built around a riff that was a bit longer in tooth than the early-mid 70s glam phase. Take the classic riff from “Wild Thing” and give it a dose of punk amphetamines to goose the tempo and you would not be far from the mark for this number. There was a super legitimate reason why the following “Turn It Down” was the track here that most strongly dripped of the Chinnichap sauce; it was a cover of the tune from The Sweet’s classic “Desolation Boulevard.” UK edition LP only, because of course Capitol US re-jigged the contents of the album severely to add other tracks. So I’ve never heard the earlier version by The Sweet. I have to admit; when I was eleven, I had to own the 7″ of that album’s “Fox On The Run;” oblivious to the song’s misogyny at the time. Still…it sports the best intro ever.

With a title like “Stomp Stomp,” could the ghost of The Glitter Band be far away? The chanted chorus of “stomp…stomp, stomp” must have had Gary Glitter crying in his lager. The big beat breakdown in the middle eight with just the drums and chanted interjections of “Stomp!” and “hey!” actually skirted copyright infringement. There’s not much to this one, but it’s so gloriously big and stupid, no one would complain.

Then, a more left-field cover popped up in the middle of side two with a glammed up take on Wilson Pickett’s “International Playboy” bringing to closer to the T-Rex sound from its Motown roots. Callis kept his vocals gruff and ready on this one. Then, the EP was filled out with…a remix? “No Shame” received a so-caled dub treatment here, but you, I, and the lamp post know that this was really just an instrumental mix. No dub effects were harmed in the making of this mix; unless you count the false ending that reversed/looped the feedback fadeout to interesting effect even as it dropped some vocals back into the track at its very end. Inexplicably, a bar of the song’s chorus butted its way into the fadeout at half speed before it all ground down to a halt.

This was an EP made to have fun with little other concerns, since Callis had Human League income from his stint in the band to butter his bread. Setting glam rock on his sights actually harkened back to his time in the Knutsford Dominators/Rezillos in the mid-70s when the proto-punks were already busy rehabilitating glam rock years before Adam Ant got around to do it. The Rezillos had a ripping great live cover of “Ballroom Blitz” on their live album, and presumably, Callis and the rest all had some love for the Glam Thang. It’s a bit strange that the EP features a mixture [to these ears] of live and programmed drums, since they had a real and capable drummer in the form of Angle Patterson. But maybe these tracks were recorded by Callis under various circumstances over a long period. After all, “Stomp Stomp” used a bass synth instead of Doug Barrie’s four-string. I suspect that Callis started these tracks on his own and added band members to flesh it out or to play live. It was at this point where the Jo Callis as bandleader/solo artiste saga ended, with Callis returning to write [and play synth] for The Human League [“Heart Like A Wheel”] for their terrible “Romantic?” album of 1990. Apart from that namechecked single [which was superb[ the rest was a really hard slog. Unlike this EP.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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1 Response to Record Review: S.W.A.L.K. – The Way We Were…

  1. Echorich says:

    Favorite Callis song – Shake’s Invasion Of The Gamma Men. Troy Tate puts on his best Scouse “call to arms” voice and Callis and Tate’s dueling guitars are a treat! Callis is a brilliant musical chameleon…Glam/Glitter, Punk, New Wave and Post Punk…never boring always inventive.


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